News Article

latest news in employment law

New Copyright Law

Published 01 Nov 2011

It will Pay Employers To Protect Their Businesses From Illegal Downloads Of Music, Software Videos & Movies etc., On Business Computers


New copyright legislation that came into force some months ago (September 2011) places employers in a vulnerable situation. The Internet Service Providers in NZ have acknowledged a requirement to serve notice on account holders who are responsible for infringements. In this instance we refer to, the employer is the Account Holder.

The effect and danger is where an employee downloads material and infringes copyright law using the employer's computer. The employer may not be aware of the misuse of the internet but could become liable regardless. The legal fees, fines and awards could well bankrupt the unsuspecting. The ISP can close the employers account.

Apart from the infringement of copyright, an employee who cares to access sites that leave the employer's broadband open can cause a massive invoice for the employer through exceeding their current broadband plan. Then there's the exposure to viruses, worms and a multitude of seriously undesirable infections.

Employers need to be able to prove to the Copyright Tribunal they have taken every reasonable step to prevent an employee from infringing copyright and a punitive fine would be 'manifestly unjust'. This is a defence.

What To Do
  1. Ensure your employment agreements refer to 'file sharing' and consequences for employees who infringe copyright law (the employee needs to be made liable).
  2. Develop a strict password and access procedure.
  3. Put in place the technology allowing you to identify individual users.
  4. Ensure all employees know and understand their use of business computers is monitored and they will be personally liable for any costs caused by their misuse of the internet.
  5. Identify and quantify what costs could be a possibility in the event of an employee's misuse of the internet – this is to ensure employees know what misuse can cost the business and the amount of money you will be looking to recover from the employee as well.
  6. Employees must know that disciplinary action will follow any breach of the internet policy and such actions could justify dismissal as well as having to pay the costs involved
  7. Put in place restrictions and block the inappropriate websites
In Addition

If employers are uncertain of the protection offered by their existing employment agreements or have in place very old agreements that will not offer any protection, then a policy statement should be originated, promulgated and signed off by each employee.

ICT Policy example
Information Communications & Technology (ICT) Policy

A new law came into effect on 1st September 2011 making it much easier for copyright owners to protect copyright material on the internet and it has significant implications for all internet account holders.

Copyright material on the internet including music, software, games, images, videos, written material and films has been widely copied and shared illegally.

This new law makes the internet "account holder" (in this case the Employer) liable for unlawful "file sharing" - uploading and downloading - by any internet user through its account. The Employer could face significant financial penalties and waste substantial time and cost in investigating potentially unlawful internet activity.

We have therefore updated our "ICT" policy which will have effect from today.
  1. The Employer's computers, mobile storage devices, internet, email or any other communications systems or devices are for business use only and the Employees must not exchange data with any other device or network without the Employer's prior written approval.
  2. The Employee must comply with all policies and procedures established by the Employer with regard to ICT, Information Systems, email, intranet, and internet use (and as may be amended and notified from time to time) and take all possible steps to protect the Employer's systems from computer viruses and malware, complying with all the Employer's antivirus checking requirements).
  3. Personal use of the Employer's computers, communications or mobile storage devices, email, internet is prohibited, without the Employer's prior written approval. Where the Employee wishes to use computers, communications or mobile data storage devices which are not supplied by the Employer, in the course of employment, the Employee must not connect those devices to the Employer's network or store the Employer's data on such a device without the Employer's prior written approval.
  4. All electronic information stored or used in the course of the Employee's employment (including information stored or used from a computer, communications or mobile storage device) may be monitored and may be accessed or intercepted and read by the Employer (or the Employer's agent) including any matters that the Employee believes he has deleted, for the purpose of ensuring compliance with this policy.
  5. The Employee must not download, install or allow to be installed any third party software applications on to the business computers or communications devices without the Employer's prior written approval.
  6. The Employee must not disable or uninstall any software applications, on any device provided by the Employer for use in connection with the business.
  7. Unauthorised and/or inappropriate email and/or internet or other communication device use is prohibited. Communications must not contain offensive, sexually explicit, or illegal material in any form (including texts and images). Internet access must not be used to visit or download material that may be deemed offensive, explicit or illegal.
  8. Employee's access passwords/codes to the Employer's network are viewed as highly confidential information and the Employee must not disclose a number, code, password, or other means of access to a device, computer or computer network of the Employer unless the Employee has obtained prior approval to do so from the Employer.
  9. It is illegal to copy, file share, download/upload any licenced or copyright protected material otherwise than in accordance with the licence/copyright. The Employee is specifically prohibited from unlawfully copying, downloading, uploading, or file sharing any licenced or copyright protected software or material (which includes music, games, videos and films) using the employers internet account. If the employee breaches licence, or copyright restrictions and the Employer, incurs costs, or financial penalties as a result of the employee's actions, the employee shall be liable to fully indemnify the employer.
  10. Failure to comply with these obligations will be investigated as potentially serious misconduct and may result in disciplinary action being taken including termination of employment.